Committee Report on Gauteng oversight visit

Public Works and Infrastructure

11 September 2019
Chairperson: Ms N Ntobongwana (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee met to consider and adopt its report on an oversight visit to Gauteng. The Content Advisor took the Committee through the report. Members were unanimous in praising the report as an accurate and detailed capturing of what was experienced at the oversight visit.

Members then raised various points relating to the status of the boards of most of the entities, the state of the IDT, marketing the role of Agrement SA to the broader public and the role of the OSD. Members raised the need for briefings to be made to it by the Extended Public Works Programme so that the Committee could fully understand its role and purpose especially in relation to paying workers the national minimum wage. There was discussion on stipulations set for achieving professional status in the construction industry, that this took many years and excluded young, black professionals and the need for the Minister to finalise the appointment of a CEO for the cidb.

Members adopted the amendments along with Committee minutes dated 21 August 2019 and 4 September 2019.

Meeting report

Chairperson Opening Remarks

The Chairperson began the meeting by addressing matters of gender violence and xenophobia currently taking place in the country. She urged all men to protect women and tell one another not to abuse women or engage in any form of violence. Women are living in constant fear and feel unsafe. She condemned the abuse and violence against women, and the xenophobic attacks in Gauteng. She clarified the xenophobic attacks are not based on nationality but are as a response to the killing of a taxi driver in Joburg by foreign drug dealers. This action was a response to crime and the death of a taxi driver trying to prevent criminals from selling drugs to a teenager. She urged the police to find those criminals.

The Chairperson said the Committee was supposed to have a joint meeting with the Portfolio Committee on Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) but this was rescheduled as COGTA was meeting with the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA).

Apologies were read out.

Committee Minutes dated 21 August 2019

Ms M Hicklin (DA) requested that her initials be changed on the minutes.  

Ms S Graham (DA) also requested that changes be made to her name in the minutes. She alerted the Committee Content Advisor to grammatical errors in the minutes.

Committee Minutes dated 21 August 2019 were adopted with amendments.

Committee Minutes dated 4 September 2019

Members noted grammatical amendments required in the minutes.

Ms L Mjobo(ANC) reminded the Committee that she was present during  the meeting but her name was not reflected under Members in attendance in the minutes.

She highlighted that in the meeting of 4 September, the written responses from the Department of Environmental Affairs, Forestry and Fisheries were still outstanding. The Committee must take action to ensure the responses are received before the Committee’s next meeting. 

The Chairperson said the responses to the questions of Members were missing from the minutes.

Ms S Van Schalkwyk (ANC) urged that the Committee be firmer in insisting outstanding responses to Members’ questions be received. The committee should identify a clear timeframe of when it expected to receive the responses. Since she joined the Committee, there were several responses or information requested from stakeholders which was still not delivered.  She proposed that a written letter be sent to the organisations that have not responded, to respond. In future, these organisations should respond with the given timeframe. 

Ms L Shabalala (ANC) suggested the Committee administration be asked to trace the responses. 

Mr Shuaib Denyssen, Committee Content Advisor, informed Members that some organisations have sent responses. There is a checking mechanism for the responses and undertakings made.

Draft Report of the Portfolio Committee on Public Works and Infrastructure on an Oversight Visit to Gauteng

Mr Denyssen said he would read each page of the report but would summarise the sections and Members could make recommendations or amendments.

He said the introduction of the report outlines the reason for the visit and methodology. The visit was a research exercise looking for material evidence with a particular objective to gather firsthand knowledge.

The report then went on to look at the mandates and functions of the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure (DPWI) and the implementing entities. The report said the Committee does oversight over the programmatic deliverables of the DPWI and its entities to implement the policies made by the Minister of Public Works as per the mandate of the DPW.

Mr Denyssen spoke more to the role of the entities, visit to the Independent Development Trust (IDT), visit to the Booysens Magistrates Court

The report covered the Committee’s visit to the DPWI head office, presentation by the Director-General and the visit to Telkom Towers where challenges faced by the SA Police Service (SAPS) was outlined.

Moving to findings, on its oversight visit the Committee found:

-  SAPS was not accommodated in its own head office for at least five years. It continued paying to secure the Telkom Towers building while the renovation project was taking place. This matter had to be addressed urgently as the project deadline was 15 April 2020

- The EPWP branch continued to face audit queries from the Office of the Auditor-General as some of its key performance indicators were outside of its own control

- The DPWI and PMTE faced challenges with collecting management fees from client departments

-The CBE and cidb faced challenges with efforts to transform respectively the professional built environment, and construction sectors

- Entities reporting to the Minister of Public Works and Infrastructure worked in silos

- The innovative, fit-for-purpose building material and systems that the Agrément South Africa tested and certified, held the promise of effectively addressing the challenges and backlogs related to social infrastructure in South African society

- Challenges of unemployment and transformation required policy urgency and all social infrastructure delivering departments and municipalities had to address the skills gap that existed

- Boards of entities required urgent attention as positions remained vacant and governance is negatively affected

- The Committee found there were too many acting positions in key leadership positions

- The Committee found the process reconfiguring the IDT remained incomplete and that uncertainty about the entity had the consequence of competing project management organisations

- Statistics and information on all legal cases involving DPWI had to be made available to the Committee

- The impact of austerity management measures from National Treasury meant that client departments did not

- The PMTE remained busy with reactive maintenance rather than a properly scheduled maintenance programme that were costed and planned

Mr Denyssen then took the Committee through the recommendations contained in the report. Having considered the findings that emerged from, and are evident in the deliberations, the Committee recommends that the Minister of Public Works and Infrastructure:

- Submits a quarterly report of the Telkom Towers construction project so that the Committee may closely monitor progress to assist the Department to keep to the project-scope, budget, and completion date of the project

- Provides an update on the new policy on which the next phase of the Expanded Public Works Programme will be based

- Reports to the Committee before the end of 2019 on the process to complete the Review of White Paper (1997) entitled “Public Works Towards the 21st Century”

- Reports to the Committee, within 30 days of this report being adopted, on progress with getting the public works entities to collaborate on efforts to unify their mandates to transform and improve the professional built environment, and construction sector of the country

- Convenes a Transformation Indaba to be held for the public works and infrastructure entities before the end of the 2019/2020 financial year

- Initiates a stakeholder outreach programme across all infrastructure and construction departments of government and municipalities in different regions of the country to assist with popularisation of innovative, fit-for-purpose building material and systems of Agrément SA

- Instructs the cidb and Agrément SA to collaborate and develop a programme to train contractors on its register to use innovative, fit-for-purpose building material and systems

- Instructs the cidb, and CBE, with the Professional Built Environment Councils (PEBCs), to initiate discussions with the infrastructure delivering departments and municipalities to bridge the skills gap through the establishment of a national skills plan that leads to artisanship as a career-choice

- Ensures that all built environment professional councils adhere to policies of Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) so that it is implemented as part of the career pipeline in the professional built environment and construction sector

- Reports to this Committee during the Strategic Planning and Annual Performance Plan of 2020, on progress to fill all vacant and acting positions in the DPWI and the PMTE

- Instructs the IDT and the DDG of the IGC branch to provide a fully detailed presentation on the plans to reconfigure the entity into a properly capacitated, relevant social infrastructure management entity that works with the PMTE and its mandated functions

- Ensures that relevant steps are taken to fill all vacancies of the Boards of all the public works entities so that the process of having fully functional entities is complete

- Instructs the PMTE to report to the Committee on its capacity challenges to put in place a properly costed, scheduled maintenance plan for government buildings

Discussion

Ms A Siwisa (EFF) stated that on the findings, not all boards of the entities are active. The Minister must be given a timeframe as to when these boards must be established. The Committee should not leave this open-ended as it is causing havoc and the Committee will not know who to hold responsible.

Ms Kopane said that while she did not accompany the Committee on the oversight visit, she found the report very informative. She appreciated the work done by the staff and Committee during the oversight visit – if the Content Advisor carried on with the great work, the Department can be improved.

Ms Hicklin also complimented the Content Advisor on a well put together report which really captured the essence of what the Committee saw and experienced on the oversight visit.

The most important thing for the Committee to do is decide whether it wants to retain or disband the IDT. The IDT is an entity without teeth – it has no power or authority to request money back from the client entities. How does the Committee give it teeth to enable it to force the entities to pay them money owed? Who can actually give the IDT this power? Is it the Minister? What mechanism can be employed to enable the IDT to recover the money so that it becomes self sufficient? If the IDT cannot be given the necessary teeth or power, it at least needs to obtain the money or else it will cease to be an entity.

Ms Hicklin said DPWI had a tremendous outflow of money and no way of recouping this money. The fluidity in some of the client departments indicate a major concern of corruption because if money can be moved around from department to department, a couple of hundred of thousands could disappear in the transaction.  This money is never recovered from the client department.  The Committee needs to ensure measures are put into place to prevent this fluidity.  If the Minister is actually serious about stopping the leaks and corruption, those measures will be implemented. There needs to be a close knit assessment and handle of where the money is going and who is receiving it.

Ms Hicklin said even though there are amazing innovations at Agrement SA, none of the SMMEs are being trained or exposed to these innovations. The Committee should aim to have these SMMEs empowered to take them from level one to nine and expose them to empowering technology which could make their lives and projects easier. This could also make the lives of the citizens of the country drastically easier because they will be exposed to the innovation and technology needed. 

Ms Graham questioned what the OSD is and the incentives around stakeholders and client entities using the IDT.

Ms Van Schalkwyk complimented the report and applauded Mr Denyssen and his team for the excellent work done on the report. The report captured what occurred on the oversight visit in Gauteng very well. She raised the vacant land the Committee saw next to the Booysen’s Court which could be an opportunity or threat to the building.  

Ms Hicklin responded that the vacant land next door is currently being used as a parking area. She was concerned that if the land was occupied or developed, the Booysen’s Court would not be able to cope with the overflow of traffic. The Committee really needs to look into this. The Committee also needs to look into crafting recommendations on how to transform graduates into professionals in the CBE. There needs to be proper enforcement in terms of providing the relevant experience to allow candidates to become professionals. There should also be a recommendation on the lack of work opportunities. Policies that prohibit practicing without registration make it difficult for the current candidates to become professionals and to enter the environment. 

She said the Committee needs to talk about the IDT and how it has depleted its money.  She insisted that something drastically needs to be done about that matter. She requested the Committee not only look into restructuring the IDT but also at the creation of a project management entity to review and make provision for the IDT’s funding challenges. The EPWP is a baseline function of DPWI but the Department does not have the enforcement power – this is of huge concern. This enforcement function should be given to the Department. Amendments to the policy, on the next phase of the EPWP, should be in unison and in consultation with the Department of Employment and Labour so that there was no clash. The workers in the EPWP should be recognised as employees and considered for the national minimum wage remuneration.  It is important that DPWI did not work in isolation when reviewing policy but take into consideration what the Department of Employment and Labour is saying.

Ms Mjobo claimed the community is not knowledgeable of the EPWP and even its relationship with the municipality.  She informed the Committee she tried to do a little bit of oversight on her own time on the EPWP but realised she did not know much about it.  She requested the Committee be briefed on the EPWP. The Committee also needs to meet the young graduates in the sector and also meet those graduates that are working but are not registered.  It would be a very good idea to know the challenges they face – it is better to hear this directly from people working in the field daily than from someone else. She reminded the Committee it did not get the presentation from the IDT on time. She asked what the status of the IDT was in the Fifth Parliament.

She said Agrement SA is not known by the wider public. She suggested Agrement SA brief the Committee on what it is going to do to ensure it is well known by the wider public. She said Agrement SA only has one person in the stakeholder communication unit to assist with marketing of the entity. How would it make its name known in the wider public if it does not have a solid unit to market itself? She reminded the Committee that Agrement SA said it would invite Members to the summit – the Member was very eager to attend the summit.

Mr M Nxumalo (IFP) complimented the work done by Mr Denyssen and his team on the report. He said the report gave him a clear perspective on what transpired on the oversight visit in Gauteng. He asked if the building industry was regulated by the National Home Builders Registration Council (NHBRC) or the SA Bureau of Standards (SABS). He was confused and required clarity on the Council – councils are good and well but sometimes make it difficult for youngsters to get their professional status. The Member knew this because he was a candidate construction manager and registration takes forever and the requirements are really hectic. He expressed his frustrations with the process of requirements because it takes too long to get a professional status. He stated he was a candidate for very long time and finally gave up because of the difficulty of acquiring the professional status. He said his frustrations are not his alone but that of other people.

Mr M Tshwaku (EFF) said the Committee needs to look at the matter of the EPWP. He added there should be a presentation on what the EPWP is about. Some of the EPWP workers are not being paid the minimum wage.  He requested the Committee oversee this in terms of who is in control and charge of the EPWP and that a proper detailed presentation is made to the Committee on the EPWP.

He then asked what the IDT was, its purpose and what it was supposed to be doing. He believed the state should have the capacity to conduct some construction activities. He informed the Committee that he came from the construction industry and it is a very tough industry. He alerted the Committee that in the construction industry, if one did not know what one is doing, one will be exploited and manipulated.  The industry will take advantage of the state and its money. Even the private sector was struggling in the construction industry because of manipulation of the tenders. He requested a proper presentation on the IDT in this regard. The Committee should look at the management of the IDT and whether the entity can be transformed into a construction company fully capacitated with engineers and fully functional project management. 

The Committee should get a list of contractors that the CID has developed, look at the stipulations and whether they were unfavourable to black companies.  For example, one of the stipulations is that the company manager must have a certain amount of money in the bank and must have completed a certain number of projects so that they can be graded. This kind of system is not favorable towards black contractors. This needs to be looked at.  

He said the report is a good one which provides a description of the entities. He was not clear on the role of Agrement SA and suggested there should be a diagram to show the reporting lines to allow for clear understanding.

Ms Van Schalkwyk said the EPWP employees are not paid the national minimum wage and this is a point of concern. This is because these workers are not seen as employees because of the initial intention of EPWP being a training programme providing skills to ensure the participants are employable. More discussion on this is needed to provide greater understanding.  

Ms Siwisa found the report to be a true reflection of what occurred on the oversight visit in Gauteng. She said the matter of the IDT board needs to be resolved. She requested the Minister finalise the hiring of a new CEO for cidb. The Committee agreed that cidb and CBE must meet because there are serious gaps in between them. The cidb regulates everything and the CBE comes in with the building environment. There is a gap in communication between these two entities and they are not talking to each other. The Committee also needs to meet on the EPWP and if necessary, invite the Department of Labour and Employment as well. The Committee also needs to discuss the matter of the IDT. By 21 December, all boards of the entities should be functional.  

Mr Denyssen said the recommendations made by Members were noted and would be included in the report.

The Committee adopted the amendments proposed.

The meeting was adjourned.

 

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